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An AARP survey found 71% of Americans in their 50s and early 60s want to stay where they are as they age, and that preference for "aging in place" jumps to 87% among people 65 and older.
Successful aging in place combines the comfort and stability of living at home with the kinds of safety and accessibility features found in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Some necessary modifications to the home can be easy -- while others are much more involved and expensive.
Fortunately, financial help is available.
Prepping a home for aging in place
Popular accessibility modifications include adding grab bars and a shower seat in the master bathroom — which are relatively cheap and easy changes.
But more complicated work may be required when an older person needs a wheelchair or walker to get around. Doorways are often too narrow and kitchen countertops can be too high for a homeowner with serious mobility issues.
Widening doorways and lowering the height of kitchen counters (or raising the floor) can get quite costly. For example, in the kitchen it might be necessary to buy brand-new cabinets — possibly at a price of up to $20,000.
Installing a roll-in shower in a bathroom can cost as much as $10,000, says Homeability.com. Putting in a walk-in bathtub costs an average of $6,000, says Fixr.com
Programs that cover all or some of the costs
An older homeowner might decide the modifications aren't worth the expense and hassle. For someone straining to get by on a fixed income and meager savings, the costs might seem out of the question.
But several government and private programs can help offset the cost of aging in place:
Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance generally won't cover modifications to a home, though Medicare might pay for a walk-in tub or wheelchair ramp if either feature is deemed medically necessary.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Housing Repair Loans and Grants program (at USDA.gov) offers grants so Americans 62 or older can make home repairs and improvements for the sake of health and safety.
At NCSHA.org, the National Council of State Housing Agencies has a list of state offices and organizations offering various types of support and assistance.
The U.S. Administration on Aging's "Eldercare Locator" tool can help you find home repair and modification resources near you. All you have to do is plug in your ZIP code.
A nonprofit called ModestNeeds.org provides "self-sufficiency grants" to help Americans just above the poverty line cover unexpected expenses, such as a necessary home project.
Reverse mortgages, available from lenders, allow seniors to tap the equity in their homes to fund improvements.
Never assume that you can't afford whatever alterations are needed to age in place, with all the dignity and comfort of remaining at home. Assistance is out there!
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